At the end of the first week of World Championship, it looked like Group B was already decided.
After scoring three back-to-back victories, Longzhu Gaming was set to finish in first, and Immortals were right behind them with two wins and one loss. And while Longzhu’s run went just as predicted, Immortals were overthrown by Fnatic, marking the first time in Worlds history that a 0-3 team managed to qualify for the knockout stage.
How did this happen? Well, it certainly wasn’t easy, as every Group B match came down to the wire.
Longzhu towered above the competition, but other than that, it was anyone’s game.
The first Bo1 between Immortals and Gigabyte Marines started with the GPL champions bringing out a surprise top lane Urgot pick as a counter to Shen. Of course, a part of Urgot’s success came down to Flame not building Bramble Vest, but it was really Levi’s full damage Shadow Assassin Kayn that was the star of the show. With one clutch play after another, Marines’ jungler led his team to victory and made sure Immortals didn’t have an easy road to the knockout stage.
After suffering a defeat at the hands of Longzhu, Fnatic entered the third game of the day with nothing to lose. They had to upset Immortals here, or they were out of the competition. But the game was close, and it took Fnatic 36 minutes to find the deciding teamfight.
Even then, Immortals were looking to disengage and regroup, but Cody Sun flashed into the enemy team and knocked back Caps into Xmithie, effectively dooming his team. Was this a big play that went horribly wrong? Or was it a callback to Rekkles’s Twitch throw?
Either way, with this win it became clear: Fnatic could make it.
But their road wasn’t an easy one.
In the fourth game, Gigabyte Marines came out with their strongest mid game yet and managed to put Longzhu behind 12k gold at the 35-minute mark. The performances from Levi and Archie were particularly impressive, and the duo managed to set up countless 5v5s with Rengar and Galio. It was only through immaculate play from the LCK champions and a string of mistakes from their GPL counterparts that Longzhu managed to mount a comeback.
After such a devastating loss, Gigabyte Marines looked completely exhausted and rolled over to Fnatic in the fifth game of the day. The sixth game was much closer than you’d think due to Longzhu bringing out their substitute top laner—Rascal—against Immortals.
Still, LCK teamfighting was too much for the North Americans to handle, and the entire group stage came down to two tiebreaker games.
Fnatic, Immortals, and Gigabyte Marines were all sitting at a 2-4 record, but the latter were in a better spot thanks to finishing their games faster. So Fnatic and Immortals had to play first, and the winner would face Marines to determine who claims second. In this do-or-die situation, Fnatic risked it all with a mid lane Malzahar pick. And boy did it deliver! The EU LCS lineup tore through the opposition in a very one-sided manner and eliminated Immortals from the race.
Now only GAM stood between them and the knockout stage.
But Gigabyte Marines weren’t going to give up without a fight. Their early game was once again well-executed with continuous top lane ganks, putting sOAZ’s at a huge deficit. Considering his tendency to tilt, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for the game to end then and there.
But Fnatic played well around the losing top lane to secure objectives elsewhere and keep up with Marines in gold. And then sOAZ himself pulled through with massive Gnar initiations.
Still, Fnatic wouldn’t be able to win so many teamfights without Optimus continuously whiffing Orianna Shockwaves. It was a long day, and the exhaustion was almost palpable.
The final fight happened at Elder Dragon.
Gigabyte Marines decided to rush the objective while Levi was buying time for them on the other side of the map, but they took too long to follow the call, and Fnatic caught Marines in the dragon pit. Even so, Noway’s Tristana almost turned the entire fight by securing an early kill on Rekkles. But a single well-placed ultimate from sOAZ shut down the Vietnamese AD carry, and finished Fnatic’s miracle run.
They had done it. In the end, Fnatic qualified by the thinnest of margins.
If it weren’t for Immortals losing four games in a row, if it weren’t for Gigabyte Marines dropping the ball against Longzhu, if it weren’t for Fnatic themselves performing way above expectations, they wouldn’t be here.
But that’s a huge part of what made their journey so exciting to follow.
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